Contributed Report, The Progress Index
RICHMOND — Virginia’s Community Colleges are off to a promising start in their quest to triple the number of credentials students earn annually by the year 2021. As the VCCS celebrates its 50th anniversary, the 2016 class was the most successful in history, reaching record numbers for both individual graduates and credentials earned. This past spring’s graduations also represented the end of the first year of the VCCS’s six-year statewide strategic plan, Complete 2021, which established the goal of tripling credentials.
All told, Virginia’s Community Colleges saw a 7.6 percent increase in degrees, certificates and diplomas earned, from 31,194 to 33,580 – and a 5.2 percent increase in the number of individual graduates, from 25,562 to 26,899. There were significant increases in certain groups driving those record numbers including:
•A 14 percent increase in the number of Hispanic/Latino graduates;
•An 11.4 percent increase in the number of so-called traditional-age graduates, those between the ages of 18 and 24; and
•A 9 percent increase in the number of graduates who are the first in their family to attend and graduate college – in fact, first generation students earned one out of every five awards earned by the 2016 class.
There was also a smaller, though notable, increase of 6.5 percent in the number of men graduating. Traditionally, men pursue and complete postsecondary credentials at rates well below that of women. Today, men make up just more than 41 percent of the total VCCS enrollment.
The graduation numbers above do not include the more than 13,000 industry-certified credentials earned by VCCS students in short-term workforce training programs last year. Those programs operate outside of a traditional academic calendar and are counted separately.
“With a focus on student success, we are helping more individuals overcome the barriers that can prevent them from earning a postsecondary credential, the passport that is essential today to pursuing the American Dream,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “Much work remains, however, if we are going to reach that tripling goal of Complete 2021 and truly prepare individuals for the new Virginia economy.”